As I mentioned in previous posts, I had the good fortune to work with the Saint John Mill Rats the last couple of seasons as an assistant coach. Although obligations with work and my high school team limit how many practices and road games I get to attend, the experience has been nothing but positive and has got me excited about the future of basketball in this region and across Canada.
At the beginning of this season there were a number of nay sayers around the country thinking the NBL of Canada (the Mill Rats’ new league) was not going to succeed because it wasn’t Canadian enough and it was too regional. These people wanted the NBL to increase the minimum number of Canadians per team (currently set at two) and thought a league based in Eastern Canada wouldn’t be embraced.
Well…I’m glad to report…they couldn’t have been more wrong!
It’s true that the minimum of Canadian players per team is only two but the number of Canadians involved with these teams goes well beyond the basketball court. For the Mill Rats we had three Canadian assistant coaches, a Canadian strength and conditioning coach, a Canadian training staff, a front office with several Canadians in leadership positions, plus countless Canadians filling game day roles such as officials, minors officials, dance team and TV production crew just to name a few. Add in the thousands of fans that have attended the games and all the young Canadian players who get to watch professional basketball in their home towns, I think it’s fair to say a cultural change in Canadian Basketball has begun.
Later this afternoon the NBL will wrap up their inaugural season when the Halifax Rainmen take on the London Lighting in the fifth and deciding game of the NBL Finals. The excitement of the Finals has been a perfect ending to a great season. Not only have the games been close and fun to watch, but fan support in both arenas has been excellent.
I’m looking forward of watching the league (and the Mill Rats) build on the success of this past season. Maybe we’ll see a Canadian head coach running one of the teams next year? Maybe more of the top Canadian players will choose to stay home to play instead of heading oversees? Maybe we’ll see National coverage of the games on TV? What ever is in store, it’s going to be exciting and good for the sport and our Canadian talent.